More than 60 Manitoba interfaith leaders sign letter denouncing Islamophobia after London, Ont., attack

After the hate-fueled attack left four members of a Muslim family dead in London, Ont., on Monday, more than 60 Manitoba faith leaders have signed a statement expressing their unified support against Islamophobia.

Author wanted to show support for Muslim community after 4 were killed by driver who plowed into family

Nafisa Azima carries Seena Safdari while laying flowers at the fatal crime scene in London, Ont., where a man driving a pickup truck jumped the curb and ran over a Muslim family in what police say was a deliberately targeted anti-Islamic hate crime. In Manitoba, dozens of faith leaders have released a statement denouncing Islamophobia. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

After what police believe was an attack fuelled by hate that left four members of a Muslim family dead in London, Ont., more than 60 Manitoba faith leaders and members have signed a statement expressing their unified support against Islamophobia. 

"As leaders and members of various local faith communities, we are shocked and distressed about the hate-provoked, targeted attack on the Muslim family in London," the statement says.

"We stand with Muslim communities both in grief and in resolve to do all that we can to counter Islamophobic hate and violence."

Authored by Rev. Loraine MacKenzie Shepherd, the minister at Westworth United Church in Winnipeg, the signatories to the statement include representatives from various Christian denominations as well as Jewish, Buddhist, Sikh, and Hindu and Jain leaders.

MacKenzie Shepherd said she and many other faith leaders felt compelled to show unified support for the Muslim community following Sunday's devastating tragedy. 

"I believe that we are all stronger when we stand together," she said. 

"And so whenever there needs to be an action or a statement or a vigil ... the more we can stand together, the more people who are targeted don't feel isolated and alone."

A 20-year-old man was charged Monday with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder after plowing into a London family of five, who were out for a walk, with his truck on Sunday.

Four members of the family — Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife, Madiha Salman, 44, their daughter, Yumna Afzaal, 15, and Salman's mother, Talat Afzaal, 74 — were killed. Fayez, 9 — the youngest family member — survived and is still in hospital.

Police say the family was targeted because of their Muslim faith, and have been in contact with RCMP and prosecutors about the possibility of filing terrorism charges against the driver of the truck.

Sandy Hyman, who is Jewish and the chairperson of the Interfaith Round Table in Winnipeg, said she signed the Manitoba faith community's letter because she felt it was important to speak out and extend her condolences.

"We don't want people to feel alone. We want them to feel that they've got support. They've got people with them," she said. 

LISTEN | Loraine MacKenzie Shepherd and Sandy Hyman on the letter of support and importance of interfaith work:

Rev. Loraine MacKenzie Shepherd (Westworth United Church) is the author of an interfaith statement that was signed by numerous faith leaders in Manitoba, grieving the killing of four people in London, Ont., after police believe they were targeted for their Islamic faith. Sandy Hyman, chair of Manitoba's Interfaith Round Table and one of the signers of the statement, talks with host Marcy Markusa about why dialogue between faiths is vital. 9:39

Both MacKenzie Shepherd and Hyman have been involved in interfaith work in Winnipeg for many years. 

Those conversations can be incredibly difficult, but also incredibly rewarding, MacKenzie Shepherd said. 

"So many times we run into roadblocks and brick walls, we run into impasses, and it becomes so discouraging," she said.

"But when we keep at it and keep trying to find new words, to see new ways to have new understanding about the depth of the pain and the fear of the other, it takes me into a place of hope that I don't know that I would find anywhere else."

Manitoba's Muslim community is holding a drive-in vigil to support each other Thursday at 8 p.m. at Winnipeg's Grand Mosque on Waverley Street.

Members of the local Muslim community can access grief counselling through the Islamic Social Services Association by emailing and the Manitoba Islamic Assocation by emailing (preferred) or calling (204) 256-1347.

More from CBC News: 

With files from Nolan Kehler